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Baltimore County approved for $24.7 million federal grant to prevent evictions

Baltimore County has been approved for an additional $24.7 million in federal money to help renters who have lost income because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s the largest grant the county has received to assist renters facing eviction amid the pandemic. Through its Eviction Prevention Program and community development block grants, the county has received around $6.5 million in federal and state funding to prevent evictions.

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The money comes from federal coronavirus relief signed into law in December by former President Donald Trump.

Baltimore County deputy director of housing and community development Terry Hickey told county council Tuesday that the county does not know how many residents owe money to landlords, and will not know until the moratorium on evictions set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expires March 31.

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But more than 6,000 renters have already applied to the county for assistance, Hickey said.

“That’s a sense of the scope of the problem right now,” he told council members during a Tuesday meeting.

The U.S. Treasury Department, the agency administering the funds through its Emergency Rental Assistance Program estimates the grant will assist 1,250 county renters, although it’s unclear what the average rental payment will be.

To be eligible for assistance, one or more household residents must qualify for unemployment, demonstrate a risk of homelessness and have a household income at or below 80% of the area median income, based on income limits set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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The county would prioritize households where a tenant has been unemployed for 90 days prior to their assistance application and households with income at or below 50% of the area median income, as recommended by the Treasury Department.

Unemployment in the county was 5.9% in December, according to the most recent statistics from the Maryland Department of Labor. Nationally, unemployment was 6.7% in December.

Grant money could be used for unpaid rent, utilities and home energy costs accumulated over the previous 12 months. It would likely be paid directly to landlords and utility providers, according to a fiscal note.

Those who have already received rental assistance through the county are precluded from the new pot of money.

The grant period continues through the end of the year. County Council is scheduled to vote on accepting the money later this month.

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